En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - August 09, 2010

From: Rotterdam, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Transplants
Title: Non-native Japanese maple seedling in Rotterdam NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford


In the first couple days of August, I discovered a baby Japanese Maple growing against the wall of my storage shed, a short distance from a neighbor's full grown Japanese Maple. I transplanted this 5 in tall seedling, which has about a half dozen leaves, near the rear corner of my backyard. The soil is extremely sandy there, but I filled a hole about the size of a paint can with Miracle-Gro potting mix. I give the seedling just under a gallon of water (which quickly vanishes in the sandy soil) every two days. As the days grow shorter, it occurs to me this seedling may have a tough time this winter. Here in the Albany, NY area, late January's normal high and low temps are around 30 and 10 degrees, but some sub-zero days are normal. This area typically gets a seasonal total of around 60" of snow and there can be upwards of 15"-18" of snow cover for several weeks. This baby maple has a trunk small enough to fit in a swizzle stick. I was thinking maybe a 6" diameter by 2 feet tall clear plastic cylinder with dime-sized holes here-and-there to allow limited air circulation. Perhaps banked with 3-4 inches of mulch around the base? Would that be too hot in direct sun? Is there anything I can do to give this tree a fighting chance of making it through this winter?


The first thing we need to tell you is that Acer palmatum, Japanese maple, is native to eastern Japan and South Korea. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. This USDA Plant Profile for Japanese Maple does not show it growing as far north as Schenectady County in east central New York State.  The best we can tell, your area's USDA Zone Hardiness ranges from 4a to 5b, which means you can have average annual minimum temperatures of from -30 to -10 deg. F.  Most information we have seen on Japanese maples say they are hardy from Zones 6 to 8. It's too hot for them in Texas and too cold for them in Schenectady County, NY.

This article from Floridata has more information, and we have extracted some comments from that article:

"Most Japanese maple cultivars are grafted on to special root stocks. They also can be propagated by rooting softwood cuttings in spring and summer. Japanese maple will grow from seeds, but you take your chances."

Seeds rarely grow true to the hybridized version of the plant, and you could go to a lot of trouble to get a mediocre tree, or it might freeze to death its first winter.


More Transplants Questions

Transplant shock in Texas natives garden
August 20, 2007 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I thought that my new Texas Natives garden was recuperating from ALL the rain. But, suddenly, my Texas Red Bud and the Eve's Necklace next to it have MANY yellow leaves. Is the...
view the full question and answer

Problems with new transplant non-native weeping willow from Washington DC
September 10, 2012 - I replanted a very young BABY weeping willow tree and now it looks as if the leaves are drying up like it is dying. I know that it could also be in shock from the new transplant or it can be dying ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting birdwing passionflower in Canyon, TX
April 17, 2009 - First, thank you for all your help! Second, I have two bird-wing passionflowers that are growing next to the house. I'd like to move them because this is the area where I want to put in some raise...
view the full question and answer

Southern Woodferns in TX
May 06, 2010 - I have recently bought some 3 gallon southern woodferns, and have planted them in the shade in a low spot with clay soil. It seems to be a good location for the ferns, but a week or two after transpla...
view the full question and answer

Invasiveness of native Viola sororia
June 13, 2007 - I live in Warwick, RI and have a section of my backyard overgrown with common blue violets. My husband and I would like to relocate them to a more scenic location if possible. The advice the cooperat...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center